This the saddest article this travel writer has ever written.
Not only did my brand new, not to mention super expansive camera dropped & broke on her first day in Andalusia but the efforts to get it fixed (which didn’t work out by the way) triggered a row of events which resulted in a shrinking my 2 day stay in Finca La Donaira to less than 24 hours. Sniff sniff.
I wrote to the hotel to explain our situation and they were kind enough to shift our dates. Unfortunately, we couldn’t shift our flights back, so it would have to be a day shorter.
“Not a big deal”, I thought. I could have never guessed that shortening a stay in a hotel would turn out to be so upsetting. It was a flash of paradise that passed in an eye’s blink. It was the best thing about our trip to Andalusia. No hard feeling Sevilla, you are a true gem but La Donaira was exactly what we needed.
What Makes It Special
Simply put, La Donaira a small luxury hotel with a huge organic farm and equestrian centre. It was voted the Best Luxury Eco Hotel in Spain Luxury Hotel Awards (2018). In its 700-hectare land with great mountain views resides a modern rustic complex with only 9 rooms.
There are more horses than people in La Donaira. Their care-takers and trainers are handpicked from around the world. It is no simple equestrian centre. They are breeding and training racehorses. And all guests are welcomed to do hop on one to explore the beautiful Andalusian landscape or take riding courses. All on the house. Sadly, since we arrived at sundown, and had to leave early morning, we didn’t have a chance.
There are different chefs cooking on different days of the week. The owner personally recruited them from around the world. They all live in the compound with their families. I briefly met the Norwegian chef and his son in the hotel’s pool. I appreciated that while being such a luxurious place, there are no barriers between the workers and the guests. It makes you feel like you are in a family house. The way the compound is organized, the coziness of the decoration and how meals are served are all designed to facilitate that feeling.
All 3 meals are included in your stay. Sadly, of all the 2 days x 3 meals we originally had, we were able to stay for one dinner and one breakfast. The meals are eaten around one big table with all the other guests. The food is made with the produce from the garden. Since one of the hotel guests was vegan, we all had to eat vegan. Well, my husband was very disappointed to hear that. He loves his meat and you know how difficult it can be to please meat people with vegan food. But the food was so good that we ended up having a discussion about how converting would be easy if such yummy food was always available.
They take their guests on tailor-made experiences such as gastronomy & wine workshops, trekking & picnic trips.
So I have a hard time reducing La Donaira to a luxury hotel. It is simply insane to run such a luxurious hotel for solely profit purposes. 9 rooms would never cover all the costs of running such a paradise. It is just too big, too personalized and too pretty. My feeling is that its owner Manfred Bodner dreamt of a sanctuary for himself and some privileged guests are welcomed to stay too.
You can check out the hotel’s rates & avalibility on Booking.com.
The Common Area
The common area feels pretty much like the living room of a modern country house.
You are free treat yourself to the library or the bar.
I was told that the owner took the time to pick each and every piece in the hotel. It took him years to finish.
Antiques are blended in with modern furnitures to create a cozy look.
It is a very art-filled place.
I don’t only mean the paintings on the wall. They also throw a music festival. Small in size but with world-class musicians.
You don’t see so many people in the common living area during the day. Guests are usually out either in the pool or riding horses.
However when it is approaching a meal time people start to gather here as it is adjacent to the kitchen.
The Indoor Pool
When we arrived the sun was going down. Everything looked magical.
The first thing I did was to rush to the room to change to have a dip in the pool before it was dark. But the dinner was almost ready so I had to be quick so that the guests don’t have to wait for me to start.
The weather was good but surprisingly the indoor pool was more tempting to me. Usually, indoor pools feel like a garage so I don’t enjoy them. But this one was very tasteful and in the middle of the garden.
And it has great views!
There is also a hammam and a spa here which again I did not have the time to enjoy.
I dried myself up and ran to dinner.
The food is without doubt one of the best parts of your stay here thanks to its top-notch chefs and its organic farm.
The farm provides fruits and vegetables, honey, olive oil and even the wine! The rest is sourced through local producers.
The lady in the photo was one of the many chefs. She is the one that specializes in vegan food. Upon your reservation, they ask you if you have any food restrictions.
Dinner is served at the same time for guests. You eat altogether at the big table you see in the first photo. It is not a-la-carte. They create a menu of the day according to the season and the dietary needs of the guests. So all the guests eat the same food. It was a 3-course menu and every plate was exceptionally good.
For breakfast, there is a small open buffet as you see in the second photo. From here you get your starters. For the main, you pick from a menu where you will find something for all tastes and diets.
I told them they should release a cookbook. I would surely buy one.
After dinner, we had a stargazing session with a fancy telescope. It was definately more than a hobbyist’s. A friend of the owner was sitting the hotel who was an amateur astronomer. It was really fun having an introductory session with him.
We wanted to continue watching the stars from the porch of our room. We took some smokes and wine from the bar and returned to our room.
One of the most beautiful things about this place is its respect for nature. Buildings occupy only a small portion of the land, and the landscape isn’t sculpted much, so it feels wild. Even the path to our room was barely lit which made it great for looking at the stars.
All rooms are designed by different architects/ interior designers. I was told that they were mostly the owner’s friends. I would have loved to see them all. Unfortunately, I only have the photos of the room we stayed in. I can say that since there is so much land the rooms are spread out and each is very private.
We stayed in the “yurt” which was designed by a famous Turkish architect. It had the feeling of a safari lodge without the lions mating under the platform of my tent. Yes, I had to try sleeping thought such a night in Botswana.
With glamping, I always worry that it might get too hot and the Andalusian sun was very strong even in April. But the yurt had some serious air conditioning so we had a sound sleep.
The Equestrian Centre
The feeling that this is a magical place and I had no time to explore it haunted me.
It totally made sense that the minimum stay was 2 days.
I made my husband promise me to wake up with the sunrise so that we could soak in a little more of this place.
Before breakfast, we rushed to see the equestrian center. I would have loved to go on horseriding expedition here but once again no time.
Instead, I walked around the center and watched the foals (baby horses), which also filled me with happiness.
The Outdoor Pool
This is the outdoor pool I met one of the chefs and his son.
So many things left unfinished… No time to take photos, no time to ride a horse, even no time for lunch before the plane. Yet, it was the best part of our Andalusia trip.
We will hopefully get another chance to come back to tick the list off.
How to Get There
Finca La Donaira is located on a remote village in Serranía de Ronda. It takes around 1,5 hours from Sevilla or 2 hours from Malaga.
You first drive to the La Posada in the village of El Gastor where you will meet the welcome crew. They will take your luggages in a new car and drive you 10 minutes further to La Donaira.
Address: Calle La Fuente, 49 · 11687 El Gastor (Cádiz) Spain
Click for location.